Summary: New Christians should be treated with acceptance, understanding and patience.
HOW TO TREAT A NEW CHRISTIAN
INTRO.- ILL.- Bob Russell of the large Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, tells this story about a young man he baptized while in college.
Bob said, "In my senior year at Bible college I met a tall, gangly basketball player from the University of Cincinnati. Neil stood 6’ 11" and weighed only 190 lbs. He had been a high school All-American from New York State.
"We struck up an unusual friendship, not only because of the contrast in our height (Bob is probably 5’ 8") but also because of our moral values. I’d grown up in a Christian home and was studying for the preaching ministry, but Neil had no Christian background at all. In fact, he was one of the most foul-mouthed persons I had ever met. When we would meet to go to a basketball game, for the first ten minutes he would just spew out profanity until he would remember that I was a Christian.
"About the only common interest we had was basketball, and we went to each other’s games. But as that friendship grew, I invited Neil to go with me to the country church where I was preaching on weekends. He was an instant hit with the people because of his height and they were an instant hit with him because they fed him every Sunday afternoon.
"He came with me several times and finally, the basics of the Christian life began to sink in. I had opportunities to study the Bible with him seriously on several occasions. Then one Sunday morning in that country church, Neil walked forward to give his life to Christ.
"His baptism was one of the most unusual I had ever participated in. The baptistery was right under the pulpit area. The pulpit had to be moved to get to the trap door. The candidate had to walk across the platform from the changing room. When Neil came out of the changing room, I could hardly keep from laughing. He had put on the longest baptismal robe we had and it still looked like a miniskirt. It came down to the middle of his thighs.
"He got into the baptistery and I baptized him in sections. (reminds me of a few I’ve had!) I thought I would never get him under the water. He probably thought I would never get him back up! But it was a great day of rejoicing as Neil surrendered his life to Christ.
"About two weeks later, a group of us from the Bible college were playing basketball at the local ‘Y.’ Neil was playing with us. He took an elbow to the ribs and winced with pain and then let fly a four-letter word. He shouldn’t have done that, but I was kind of proud of him because I had heard him use a lot worse than the one he selected! But one of the young preacher boys stopped the game and put the ball under his arm and said to Neil, ‘WELL, IS THAT ANY WAY FOR A CHRISTIAN TO TALK?’"
Bob said, "No, it wasn’t, but it wasn’t any way for a new Christian to be treated either! That young preacher boy failed to understand where Neil was coming from. He failed to be sensitive to his needs at that moment."
I agree with Bob Russell. That young preacher failed to demonstrate love!
Rom. 14:1 "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters."
I Pet. 4:8 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
The demonstration of love toward one another is what we need most of all in life. We do far more good by demonstrating love than by demanding life or a certain way of life from someone.
That young preacher would have done better had he ignored that new convert’s foul speech. I suspect that the new convert felt bad enough without someone trying to make him feel even worse.
ILL.- Henry Drummond once wrote, "How many prodigals are kept out of the Kingdom of God by the unlovely character of those who profess to be on the inside."
There are times when we keep people out of the church and out of kingdom of God by our lack of love, by our unloveliness, by our bad disposition, not particularly our position on a certain subject.
ILL.- Preacher Wayne Smith said one time, "I’ve never apologized for my position, but I’ve had to apologize many times for my disposition."
Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..."